These days, people are all about choice. Feeling hungry? You can find cuisine that meets the needs of every picky eater, dieter, and gastronome. Need a new set of wheels? There’s a myriad of makes and models available, and they come in every color imaginable. While this era of choice has its perks, having so many options can clog up the decision-making process. (I’m not the only one who’s taken more than 30 minutes to decide between tacos and Thai food, right?) But despite that drawback, variety is certainly better than the alternative—especially for physical therapy practice owners and the patients they serve. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, PTs and owners have more business model options than ever before—from concierge physical therapy to employer-based care. But, not all models are created equal. With that in mind, here are five fresh PT practice models that break with tradition:
1. Integrating with Other Health or Wellness Professionals
Everything’s better with a partner in crime, right? The same rings true for partners in health. Thanks to a greater emphasis on collaborative care, providers across various healthcare professions—including physical therapy—are teaming up to deliver more holistic care to their patients. In fact, some therapists—like the ones at Tulsa Spine and Rehab—are even teaming up with non-physician care providers who are traditionally seen as direct competitors (e.g., chiropractors and massage therapists). This model—which came about in response to the Triple Aim— is designed to improve patient experience, increase satisfaction with healthcare services, and reduce the overall cost of care. Here are some added benefits of integrated care teams:
- They create a more well-rounded approach to care;
- They reduce patient healthcare spending;
- They allow for more efficient referral processes; and
- They improve health outcomes through provider collaboration.
2. Offering Concierge or Subscription Services
The idea of offering physical therapy on a subscription plan may seem a bit unconventional, but many PT business owners are looking to this model to boost profitability. While practices commonly offer subscriptions to wellness services or gym memberships, some are now moving toward subscription-based concierge care services. In a nutshell, concierge care is a model in which patients pay a monthly or annual fee to their PT in exchange for immediate access to all services (for an example, check out the practice website for Dr. Anique Walters, PT). This model can work well for physical therapists because it:
- Can reduce healthcare spending in the long run by helping patients avoid preventable illnesses;
- Is great for patients who are serious about health and wellness, as it helps those patients avoid copays and long waits;
- Provides reliable income for the PT, and
- Can help foster the perception of PTs as primary care providers.
3. Partnering with a Gym
Physical therapists can also use their vast understanding of anatomy, physiology, and neurological conditions to serve individuals in a gym setting, helping to connect individuals who have health or mobility issues to gym routines that meet their needs. Furthermore, these PTs are uniquely qualified to ensure patient safety and proper management of health issues that could be impacted by exercise.
Many gyms recognize the perks of partnerships with physical therapy practices——like the one between Balance Gym and Pure Sports Physical Therapy in Washington, DC. As Balance Gym’s website states, their clients no longer have to wait to get into a physician’s office for pain or spasms affecting their performance. Instead, they can get the help they need with Balance Gym’s on-site PT partner. And this model isn’t exclusive to the traditional gym setting. Many specialty gyms—such as “neuro gyms” like Neuro-Fitness Therapy in Wilmington, DE and “autism gyms” like My Favorite Therapists in Deerfield, FL —benefit from the expertise of a physical therapist.
Special Legal Considerations
While PT-gym partnerships can be incredibly lucrative and mutually beneficial, it’s important note that physical therapists must take extra precautions when partnering with a gym. As we mention in this post, “if the therapist’s qualifications include the skills necessary to administer aid in an emergency situation or detect early risk factors for certain health issues, then he or she could be held legally accountable for failing to do so.” However, non-medical professionals—such as personal trainers and massage therapists—do not hold the same liability. So, make sure you’ve covered all of your legal—and liability—bases before you start offering gym-based services.
4. Working with a Corporate Office
When you consider the fact that many PTs go into the profession to avoid the corporate environment, it’s a little ironic when therapists find themselves in an office setting. However, many large companies—like Google, for example—have their own onsite clinics, which often include physical therapists. This approach offers a lot of flexibility and variety, as it’s:
- Ideal for employees working desk jobs, trades, and active jobs alike;
- Great for treating work-related injuries as well as non work-related ones; and
- A perfect opportunity to promote population health.
This model is also incredibly convenient—and possibly more cost effective—for patients compared to traditional PT settings. As this article from the Washington Post mentions, employees from Vanguard—an investment company in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania—have access to an on-site physical therapist. According to the article, this not only eliminates the need for patients to drive to and from their appointments (thus saving them time), but also allows them to enjoy lower-than-average copays (thus saving them money). Talk about a win-win.
5. Incorporating a Cash-Based Model
We’ve talked a lot about the perks of cash-based practices on the WebPT Blog, including not having to deal with insurance payers. However, a private-pay model may not be ideal for everyone, particularly if you serve a lower-income area or if your target patient group relies on Medicare. Fortunately, you can dip your toe into the private-pay pool by adding cash-based wellness services to your practice’s current repertoire. That way, you can still reap the financial rewards of cash services without having to turn away patients who have Medicare or who can’t afford to pay out of pocket.
Health care is constantly changing, which means patient needs will continue to change as well. And that represents a huge business opportunity for those practice owners who are willing to innovate. If you’re interested in trying out an alternative model, but you’re not sure which one would be ideal for you, the APTA suggests making a list of your passions, deciding which one incorporates needs that can be met with physical therapy, and figuring out which model can best meet those needs. And, if possible, find a mentor who’s had success in your desired model. Does your practice have an unconventional business model? Share your experience with us in the comment section below!